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August 18, 2005

Behind the Verbal

Taylor Mays is a high profile recruit with a low-key demeanor.

With the twinkle of five-stars next to his name, most recruitniks impatiently awaited the announcement of his college decision - via a press conference from O'Dea High School with cameras, microphones and local sports personalities.

However, the only local sports personality at Mays' announcement was his dad, Stafford.

Stafford Mays, a former defensive lineman with the Washington Huskies and Minnesota Vikings, has seen a few media frenzies in his day. Luckily, Stafford didn't have to worry about sending out press releases before his son's announcement to attend USC next fall.

"That's not who we are," explained Stafford. "Taylor didn't want the hoopla and everything that goes with it. He just wanted to make his decision and move on so he could concentrate on school. If there would've been a press conference it probably would've been out of control.

"There were a ton of phone calls, and a lot of disappointed people. But you know, this is Taylor's life. He has to live his life and make decisions. He's a grown up boy, so he can handle it."

Despite not promoting the announcement, Taylor couldn't completely escape the onslaught of attention.

"It got real crazy," said Taylor. "It was actually weird because I didn't think it would create that much controversy."

Technically, the announcement itself went over without a hitch. The controversy started when a local radio station spread a rumor that USC had been eliminated from consideration just days before the announcement.

"Taylor told me about some of the rumors going around, but I don't think it added to the pressure of his decision," said Stafford. "Mind you, I don't know where people were getting their information from either."

With Taylor making a decision before the start of the football season, Stafford's role in his recruitment was purely supportive.

"It was about three months ago when he came to us and said he wanted to have this done by the start of the season," said Stafford. "It was easy for me because I just guided him along and listened to what he had to say. Everything was based on his decision, and I'm really proud of the way he handled it.

"He had to make some tough, tough phone calls to the Michigan coach and coach (Ty) Willingham. He sat there and did it just the way you'd want to. He went over what he wanted to say to me first, and then he did it."

With the hardest part of the recruiting process over, Taylor was eager to give USC the good news.

"He was ready to make the call," said Stafford. "He wanted to make that call to Pete right after he took care of his other business, and I could hear Pete in the background when he did. I could hear them all yelling from where I was standing in the kitchen."

The conversation between Taylor and the USC staff was brief, but emotional.

"They said they were jacked up, and I laugh because all the coaches down there say they're jacked up," said Taylor. "They were real excited, and I felt going there was going to be the right thing."

As Stafford watched his oldest son make one of the most important decisions of his life, he too got a little emotional.

"I was thinking, 'I've got nine more months and then Taylor is gone'," said his dad. "That's going to be a hard adjustment for me - when your first one leaves. He and his younger brother are six years apart. And you know what, I like being around Taylor.

"He's a funny guy, although he's also quiet. He's a good kid and I want to make sure everything goes right for him. He's worked very, very hard to get to this point. He's a true student of the game, which I never was. He watches the game, he eats right and really works at it."

While Taylor ended the recruiting process early to concentrate on his senior year at Seattle (Wash.) O'Dea, the attention didn't leave a bad taste in his mouth.

"It was cool," said Taylor. "It's nice to put in all that hard work and have it pay off. All these schools that I dreamed about when I was younger now wanted me to play football for them. That was cool.

"Of course, at the same time, I look at it as incentive to work harder because I have more to prove. More people are watching me now - they expect more."

But Taylor has expectations of his own for this upcoming season. While the recruiting process was enjoyable, Stafford doesn't see his son missing the attention.

"No, I don't think so at all," said Stafford. "He's at peace with where he's at. He's a senior at O'Dea now, and they have a couple of big goals heading into this season.

"One is to make the playoffs, the other is to go deep into the playoffs. They haven't won a championship in 10 years. His focus is to cap off this senior season with at least a championship appearance."

One team standing in O'Dea's way are the Bellevue Wolverines. Led by five-star offensive tackle Stephen Schilling, Bellevue has become a national power in high school football.

In part two of Behind the Verbal, Taylor talks about dethroning the state champs, making a current rival a future teammate, and much more!

For more in-depth recruiting stories, practice reports, and exclusive video, join the thousands of other premium members already signed up for USCFootball.com!


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